July knitting in the cold and wet -where am I?

I’m posting from the capital town of Saaremaa island, part of Estonia. I’ve been at the Nordic Knitting Symposium and plan to go to Estonian Craft Camp on Sunday.

Links here:

https://sisu.ut.ee/knitting2018/avaleht

https://www.kultuur.ut.ee/en/craft-camp

The knitting symposium was intense with workshops all day and three lectures every evening about Estonian, Latvian and Russian knitting. There were workshops on knitting from all the Baltic countries And north west Russia, which  for me was one of the highlights. It was an opportunity to meet knitters from Russia, whose workshops I took.

The knitting they showed is larger gauge than that done in Estonia, using  on 2.5mm needles with a light double knitting type wool. The patterns are from an ethnic group called the Komi, which were new to me, but they have been documented in an English language book by Charlotte Schurch, Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs From Russia.

One of the teachers was Zlata Ushakova, here on the left. She hand and machine knits, selling her products by travelling to Moscow by ferry and overnight train from her home in Arkhangelsk.

This is what I made, which is described as a holder for small things; it’s actually a mitten without a thumb and a cord attached, but quite ingenious.

My final project was a small wristband using another Komi pattern; we had the choice of three, a fish, arunning dog or a seagull. Mine is the running dog, in case you can’t tell.

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I also went to the machine knitting workshop which was a challenge. (Hand knitters look away now). The teacher had designed a project for a single bed machine including many techniques – a picot hem, a complicated buttonhole, a pocket, some punch card patterning, increasing and decreasing, and finished off with short rows. It was fun following the instructions and as there were only 4 of us in the class, two beginners and two experienced machine knitters we were all able to get finished.

 

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I finished the pouch with buttons cut from a jacket found in a second hand shop in Viljandi bought for .25 euro. After taking off the buttons, the jacket stayed in the shop! The pouch was then washed and dried and pressed in my hotel room. I think it’s the first time I have asked for the iron and ironing board in a hotel.

At the end of the event we were all given a sheet of A3 paper on which to arrange our productions and the final show was an impressive display of hand work.

For me, the lectures were the most interesting and useful part of the symposium, and they added to my knitting knowledge, especially that of Russian knitting. Of course the chance to meet up with old knitting friends and make new ones was perhaps the greatest pleasure and benefit of attending.

It was also interesting to look around the Department of Native Crafts, located in a former bakery in Viljandi, with impressive workshop spaces for textiles and wood and metal work. It made me wonder if such a thing might ever be possible in a UK context.

So, onwards and upwards to Craft Camp. I’m being really brave about missing the heatwave in the UK.

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June newsletter – moths and collecting

The big news is that I have found clothes moths in the house. The warm weather brought out a lot of moths of all sorts and so I renewed my sticky moth traps and found that I caught three small clothes moths almost immediately. Here they are:

So then I decided that I should turn out the places where I store wool and woolly things which turns out to be more than I’d bargained for. There are garments – current and old, yarn in stash, yarn in ongoing knitting, cashmere, alpaca and wool tops for spinning, and wool blankets – knitted, crocheted and woven, Not to mention a couple of suits and jackets.

First to get opened up was a trunk full of old garments that I keep, a personal archive. There’s a mixture from things I made years ago to things I bought and have never worn to outfits from Trent Polytechnic back in the 1980 s.

Here are some of them:

This is an Orenburg shawl, brought back for me from the USSR as it then was by a friend who’s a research physicist, so he know lots of Russians and used to go there quite a lot. It was bought in St Petersburg and is now at the dry cleaner’s.

A Shetland scarf, bought there on a visit in the 1992. Also at the dry cleaner’s right now.

A rather nice hat, hand knitted. The label inside says it’s from Lithuania but I’m not sure how I came by it … it has been hand washed.

A Shetland tam, bought there.

Hand spun and hand knitted by me, Jacob’s wool scarf, a long time ago

Ethnic socks, think they might have come from Nepal when I visited in 1995

A cotton bag to put handkerchiefs in, hand knitted in Zimbabwe and brought back by me in the 1990s.

The Urban Jumper. My design, machine knitted in glorious synthetics. Worn by my partner in the 1980s

My hand knitting, inspired by the Danish book, Everybody’s Knitting. 

It started out life as a dress, and ended up as a skirt and top for my daughter aged about 7 at the time. All wool was unravelled from other garments bought in charity shops.

A cardigan designed and knitted by a Japanese company from when I worked with Japanese knitwear producers.

My sweater drawer has been taken wholesale to the dry cleaner who are giving me a good discount on bulk, including lace items that I really don’t want to have to block and quite a lot of cashmere.

The yarn has gone into the freezer for a while. Information on the web varies on the length of time things should stay there, from 2 days (Vogue magazine UK) to a week. I have been told 3 weeks so who knows what the correct time is? (If you think you know, please tell me pronto!).

Other items have been handwashed and are now ready to go back in the trunk, all sprayed inside with moth killer spray and new newspaper.

And then of course, there’s the big question – why keep most of this stuff at all?

 

May newsletter (about designing)

DESIGNING – what I love doing most of all

I’m a bit of a design evangelist as for many years I ‘just made’ things, deciding on colours and so on as I went along. When I went to Trent Polytechnic (as was) I quickly learnt that some thought at the planning stage can save lot of time and effort on something that isn’t quite right once it’s finished. So for me, designing what I make, sampling, drawing, dare I way it, swatching ? is all crucial before the knitting starts. I come clean, I think there should be more of it done too!

As I wrote in my April newsletter, I’m planning a group of hand knitted gloves that are different from any I’ve done before. When I started ‘The Glove Project’ I knitted knitting existing patterns so that I could understand about construction and ‘traditional’ design, and from there I designed my own.

Now, there’s a limit to how many pairs of gloves someone can knit without wondering what’s going to become of them all and after about half a dozen pairs with my own initials on them, I decided I would knit gloves for other people although so far they haven’t been able to wear them …. but that’s another story.  After that the gloves became more bespoke with customised patterns, initials and dates.

Here’s an early group:

The red and beige ones in the April post were the last in that series I think, highly personalised with bespoke colours, full name and date.

Now, though, I want to use my own colours in response to design ideas but I don’t want to knit gloves that nobody wears. So this series is a fudge, a sort of quid pro quo between me knitting someone a pair of gloves, personalised with their initials and a date of their choice, but my design apart from that. So no treble clefs for the musicians this time round, sadly.

The focus of this group, which might be another half dozen pairs, is their design. I am obsessed with design – not just my own design but that of others and all the examples of good and bad design that we see around ourselves all day everyday. I love exploring design ideas through knitting gloves – they are ideal for what I want to do – use colour, explore proportion and communicate ideas through making textiles.

My starting point is the natural world, as it so often is, especially the sea and beach, a theme that I come back to again and again. There is some imagery from simple rural buildings and forests too. Most of the images I’ve taken are from places in California, but some are from Wales. I showed some of these last time too.

The colour palette is limited to neutrals with a very grey blue and I’ve chosen the yarns from the finest that I have in my stash, so they are all 3 ply, Marion Foale, Jaeger botany wool 3 ply or Regia 3 ply wool that has 25% polyamide in it.

Once the colours were more or less decided then I was able to start to design in more detail. The usual rules of UK style hand knit gloves apply:

only two colours per glove (really hard to stick to)

rib cuff

date and initals above that

small geometric patterns

These constraints actually make the designing easier and more of a challenge simultaneously. 

I’ve been working out colour combinations, patterns and so on in a couple of sketchbooks, totally absolutely vital to the making process. I’m also planning four pairs so that they all sit along side each other so that’s quite complicated. It’s a help to look at gloves I’ve made already to see what I like about my favourite ones. This is the pin board in my studio (spare bedroom) at the moment.

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Here I’m planning out each pair in more detail with little tiny samples knitted over 24 stitches to get a good idea of how the colours are working together. This has been going on a few weeks:

 

I started knitting the cuffs of all fours pairs, both cuffs, and this is the result so far: I promise you they do come apart!

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I’ll post more pictures as I carry on knitting but it will be one pair at a time after this.

April newsletter

April newsletter… or should it be March? But it’s not an April Fool anyway as it’s far too late.

Lots of exciting things happened during March.

I went to a fashion show at the V& A museum ….

I finished a pair of very intricate gloves …

I designed and planned a set of four new gloves to be hand knitted

I am knitting a baby jacket

So you can see that life for the glove knitter has been busy again this month.

The John Alexander Skelton show
This was in the Raphael Gallery in March. He was invited to take part in a series of fashion shows held at the V & A over the years called Fashion in Motion:
https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion-in-motion

This is the link about his show:
https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/fashion-in-motion-john-alexander-skelton

John found my hand knitted gloves on this blog, particularly the Yorkshire ones here:

https://knittinggloves.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=664&action=edit

I worked with him last year to design and knit 2 pairs of hand knitted gloves which were in his show.
This season I made 20 pairs of hand warmers on the knitting machine and these are the ones being worn in the show this March. I’ve also got some orders for making more!

The March show had the men wearing the clothes coming into the gallery space led by a singer, who was Vivien Ellis.

Here’s some pics of the show.

The gloves I finished

These are for my friend Jenny and they take their patterns from a vintage pair that I saw in a picture in Text magazine. I have taken almost a year knitting 2 pairs which is just TOO long. Without a firm deadline I tend to drag my feet on any project.

They have been washed but not pressed.

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The next set
I’m planning an designing a set of at least 4 gloves that will be made for friends as I have done in the past. But this time, instead of letting them choose colours I am specifying the colours and patterns and the person they are for will be able to add their initials and a date. I’ll also knit each pair to size for each person by drawing round each hand.

I’ve been wanting to design a set of gloves for a while and for this set I’ve returned to my favourite source of images from nature – I’m working from a set of pictures taken in Wales and California of the beach and trees so the underlying theme is nature.
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I decided I wanted to use the best quality wool I have in my stash as I need up having to use some rather stringy British wool 3 play to complete the last pair. I have been given some Jaeger 3ply Botany wool and some Marion Foale pure wool 3 plays along with Regia 3 ply in my stash. So I have a very lovely palette of wools to design with. I have been posting some of the images from my sketch book on Instagram and they are here.

So the plan is to aim to knit a pair each month to have these complete for the autumn.

The baby jacket – my first top down garment
A friend’s daughter is having a a baby in the summer and as I knitted an Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket for her sister, I thought I’d do one for her baby too. However, the baby is due in the summer so I wanted to make a second size, which I don’t have the instructions for in BSJ. So I found a very nice free pattern on Ravelry, via a Tweet actually from Louise Tillbrook who’s pattern it is – Fuss Free Baby Jacket. Yes I know I should be designing it myself but if that happened the baby would be at school before it had anything hand knitted

March newsletter

Hello again!

I could say this newsletter is late because of the snow … which actually wouldn’t be true at all as the snow has not held me up! It has stopped me making a trip to the very west of Wales where I have a caravan overlooking St David’s Head but that’s all now put back a week so I’ve had more time at home not less.

So what’s being going on knitting wise?

I’m machine knitting at the moment. This is a fine 3ply wool sweater for my partner, Gordon, to wear under his McNair walking shirt, a Christmas present from me.

The McNair shirt is made in Slaithwaite, a village near Huddersfield where we live, and is a great example of local small scale production. You can read all about it here, on their rather slick web site.   The shirts are not cheap and raise all the questions about how much we are prepared to pay for our clothes, showing it is that global capitalism has made mass production of so many goods so cheap that we can treat them as disposable blah blah … I’m sure most of you are familiar with the arguments on this. Anyway, it was a lot of money, like anything made in the UK that pays the maker anything more than living wage.

Gordon had been wearing an old cashmere jumper of my father’s under it. This goes back to when I worked in the knitwear industry and sometimes visited factories that would have garments on offer, so this is a beautiful garment, classic bottle green etc but with a moth hole right in the middle of the front, probably where some food or drink’s been spilled down it. No amount of mending, visible or invisible, is going to restore it to its former glory, but as an underlayer it’s perfect. However, a change is needed from time to time even if all these wool garments do hardly ever need to be washed, hence the call to action.

I suggested buying a merino base layer but when I admitted that I have some 3 ply pure machine washable wool on cone, a rare beast indeed, an order was placed. So it’s almost there, not quite enough for a photo though. I love machine knitting but as a process it’s not very photogenic, (unlike say hand spinning) which is a shame so here’s some not very attractive pics: (I don’t think machine knitting is meant for blogs or Instagram).

This is the start – the tension swatch, the working out and notes including the special green ruler for reading off stitch and row gauge. And while I was working out the shape of the garment, I had to search for a sleeve top shape and sound everything I needed on the Knitting & Crochet Guild web site here under the heading ‘Finding out more about designing’. It’s a mine of information and highly recommended although it’s not what I’d term designing, more pattern drafting.

Here’s some pics of the work in progress:

The blue is the garment and the yellow and green are waste yarn, used a lot on the machine.

Machine knitting is a great way of producing good quality garments quickly, or it can be combined with hand knitting or crochet to make items like blankets such as this one, featured some while ago. The central panels are machine knitted on my chunky machine and the deep border is double crochet. The yarn is all my own indigo dyeing, some over natural greys and dark greys. Design inspiration Amish and Welsh quilts by the way.

I’m also carrying on with hand knitting gloves for my friend Jenny a process not without upset as I had to undo about 3 hours of work when I realised that the yarn I was using was just not the right thickness. I do my utmost to use only stash yarn for these gloves and I’d run out of the perfect vintage pure wool 3 ply in the exact right shade of red, so I put in a heavier red which didn’t work. It’s on the white background, 2 pics, below. I then found a very thin pure wool on cone, and have continued with that. All is ok and progress is again being made.

And I’m also thinking about exhibitions, workshops and a lot of travel …. and hosting Beth Brown-Reinsel at the end of the month – thanks for the heads up Beth in her recent newsletter.

and wondering what I can do with this gorgeous yarn, a present from someone who knows I like to knit with 3 ply pure wool, (and there’s none better than Marion Foale’s) here:

 

I almost forgot to say that I have finished one or two of my many half finished projects …  a couple of Estonian wristwarmers.

February newsletter

February newsletter

I’m not sure if this post should be called news from January rather than February newsletter … but that’s what is it really.

Social media
After thinking about it for ages, my social media is now more pulled together. The Welsh Minx has gone and I am now I’m angharadt, except Twitter, which already had one, so there I’m angharadtphd.

I’m on Facebook, which I use for both personal and textile-y posts and news, sometimes public and sometimes private. You can find me as Angharad Thomas; I have 2 Instagram accounts, one of which is public and one private, and I also have a Linkedin account. I have a Pinterest page; both of the latter are fairly dormant, but I do keep pics of lost gloves there.

More importantly perhaps, I’m on Ravelry, where you can see my projects, groups, stash and so on, and message me.

My activity on all of these is fairly sporadic, a bit like on this blog actually.

Yarn for glove knitting

Dreadful news. In the last few days I’ve discovered that my favourite yarn for glove knitting, and the one used by the knitters in Sanquhar, Regia 3 ply wool and nylon, is being discontinued. Supplies of some colours have been tricky for a year of so now, resulting in me bringing some back with me from California, supplied by a shop in Canada. I had a query, through this blog, about what yarn to use for Sanquhar gloves, so I thought I had better check my suppliers, only to find out of stock and discontinued notices on web pages. So it’s back to searching for vintage yarns and fine 4 plies to substitute for the Regia. There is a German yarn that appears to be suitable but the web site is all in German …..

What I’m knitting now – silk gloves
In the meantime I’ve been knitting in Jaipur Fine Silk, in white, on 1.5 mm circulars. The knitting is very very slow both because its so fine – and because I can’t knit more than about 4 rounds without getting pain in my left hand. So what I was hoping to have complete in about a week is very incomplete now. Even if I knitted solid all the time I’m awake I wouldn’t get them done. It’s been a bit of an eyeopener and makes me look at the silk gloves that I studied a few years ago with renewed awe.

Here’s a real unedited snap of my worktable with the silk gloves in progress. It looks as mess, probably because it is one. Every item is of use.

And here’s the thumb of the right hand, a little offset into the palm.

Knitting & Crochet Guild news
I volunteer in the collection of the KCG where my rather grand title is Textile Curator. I’m usually there two days a week but this week we had a concerted initiative to have an early spring clean, so a group of us were in for an extra day. We also had a visit from second year students at the University of Huddersfield, a picture of which is on the KCG Facebook page, and a visit from the editors of Slipknot, the quarterly magazine of the KCG. This is a great little (A5) publication and in itself a good reason for being a member of the KCG. There’s no advertising, and lots of interesting pieces written by members. Often there’s something about the collection too, usually written by Barbara Smith whose blog is highly recommended at Barbara Knits Again.

The big clear out included a massive sort out of the knitting needles and you can get some idea of the scale of the operation from these images:

 

My UFOS and WIPS (Unfinished Objects and Works In Progress)

The light is getting brighter and the days longer so it might be time to take stock of the UFOs and WIPs that fill the bags and baskets in my workspace (actually a spare bedroom, the bed is a handy space to spread things out on). There are at least 3 pairs of gloves that might never become pairs, 3 pairs of mittens ditto, a jumper that has a couple of inches of the trim started, a crochet blanket with perhaps half the hexagons started but not finished, and several pieces of Estonian knitting started at Craft Camp and waiting for attention … then there’s still some swatches and samples which could be turned into blankets and throws. They’ve been waiting many years and might have to wait longer still. Some of them are waiting patiently in these bags:

January 2018 newsletter

This comes with best greetings for the New Year. I’m planning to do lots of great projects and go to lots of great places this year in my knitting life. Let’s see how many actually happen. In the meantime what have I been doing?

Gloves for Jenny

A pair of gloves for my friend Jenny. I showed the cuff for one of these gloves in the November newsletter, but they have progressed since then. The name and dates are knitted in and I am progressing up the thumbs here:

These are really complicated and inspired by a historic pair that are in a collection in London. There are so few pairs of these two colour knitted gloves still in existence that it’s really exciting to find some that I haven’t seen before. These were pictured in Text, the magazine of the Textile Society a few years ago and I think they have the same sort of charm as nineteenth century cross stitch samplers.

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Marianne Clarke’s gloves from 1835 in the Hopkins Collection, School of Historical Dress, London

Socks on circular needles

This is the first time that I’ve knitted socks for a long while so I decided to do them on circulars in the same way as I knit gloves. I used to be a dab hand on a set of four double pointed needles by the way. They are for my partner who suddenly announced that he would like a pair of socks. He makes specific requests very rarely so I thought I should take notice. I dug out some red four ply yarn from a charity shop that contains wool and some silk and should therefore be fine for socks. As usual when I knit anything like this – socks, mittens and so on, I went for a copy of Woolcraft. If you don’t know this publication which ran for years published by Patons then I can’t recommend that you find one as soon as possible. I’m well down the feet at the moment and aiming to keep going.

Copies of Woolcraft from the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild

I have plans for a glove exhibition perhaps later in the year or in 2019 and will keep you all in the loop as these develop … and plans to knit more gloves …

 

In case you don’t get these, here are links to the web sites for some of the newsletters that I’ve had in the last few days and are well worth a look depending on your exact interests.

Schoolhouse Press, includes a re-released pattern for EZs sideways mitts in garter stitch featured in this blog here.

Knitter’s Review  Clara Parke’s excellent account of yarns

Hand/Eye magazine (not knitting but some very inspirational work, mostly textiles)

Textile Art  Lots of practical and free advice on your career as a textile artist

Beth Brown-Reinsel With lots of information about her classes and travels